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Folic Acid Side Effects



In numerous informative texts and articles we read that folic acid – which some incorrectly call vitamin B9 – is a safe, water-soluble molecule that does not produce side effects.

Of course, adequate supplementation of this very important vitamin, specific to the needs of the individual, can only bring important benefits to the body.

Use: what many advertising channels do not specify is that folic acid can cause unpleasant side effects even when taken in excess.

Just think, for example, of the importance of regular folic acid supplementation during pregnancy: vitamin B9 is in fact necessary for the growth and correct development of the unborn child, as well as for the prevention of terrible anomalies such as spina bifida. Furthermore, folic acid supplementation can minimize the risk of cardiovascular diseases in patients subject to this type of disorder (especially in the case of high cholesterol and homocysteine ​​values).

The skill and cunning of some advertising propaganda and certain websites, however, seem to make fun of potential customers, exploiting their credulity and naivety to encourage them to take megadoses of folic acid in order to prevent the possible (and terrible) risks of deficiency “, on which particular (and excessive) emphasis is placed. It is clear that by overstating the possible effects produced by a lack of folic acid, the potential customer is frightened by convincing him that it is better to exceed the doses, in the mistaken belief that “a lot, it doesn't hurt”.

What it is and Benefits

Folic acid is the supplement of folate molecules necessary for the life and survival of the human organism.

They play a key role in production Of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) by al metabolism of certain amino acidsboth factors necessary for the replication mobile phone.

Side effects

Folic acid is a safe molecule and does not produce no side effects when taken within the recommended doses for your health and age.

Recommended Doses

Indicatively, the recommended doses are:

  • 200-300 µg* (0,2 – 0,3 mg) ell’adulto;
  • 400-500 µg (0.4 – 0.5 mg) during pregnancy;
  • 350 µg (0.35 mg) during breastfeeding.

*µg = mcg

For the treatment of certain cardiovascular pathologies, some doctors recommend taking folic acid in higher quantities, in the order of 400-1000 µg per day.

Some pregnant women particularly at risk of folic acid deficiencies even need 5 mg (5000 µg) of folic acid per day (to be taken in the form of supplements).

Despite this, pregnant women are advised to scrupulously respect the dosages of folic acid prescribed by the doctor: some side effects in the newborn have in fact been reported following excessive supplementation of vitamin B9 by the mother during pregnancy.

In these children, a greater incidence of asthma and wheezing has already been recorded during neonatal and childhood age.


What happens if blood folic acid is high?

Although the risk of toxicity from excess folic acid is relatively low, it is still appropriate to consider what side effects an exaggerated surplus of this vitamin could generate.

With the exception of some pregnant women who are particularly at risk of folic acid deficiencies, in healthy adults, an intake of vitamin B9 above 400-1000 mcg/day could cause side effects from overdose.

The table shows the most common overdose risks and possible side effects (although quite rare).

Very high doses of folic acid can generate serious side effects on the central nervous system.
Epileptic patients who take high doses of folic acid risk an accentuation of seizure symptoms.
Furthermore, we must not forget that an excess of folic acid could hide the symptoms of blood diseases such as pernicious anemia, a pathology caused by the prolonged and untreated deficiency of vitamin B12. This form of anemia, whose symptoms are hidden by an overdose of folic acid, could cause serious neurological disorders to the victim, such as the appearance of paresthesia, loss of sensitivity and, in the most serious cases, total paralysis.

Pharmacological interactions

Some patients must be particularly careful when taking folic acid supplements, since vitamin B9 could cause unpleasant side effects in the body following interaction with certain drugs:

  • Folic acid must be used with extreme caution in combination with aspirin: some studies performed in humans suggest that, in similar circumstances, vitamin B9 is able to reverse the beneficial effects of aspirin on C-reactive protein ( known inflammatory marker). Let us briefly remind you that aspirin can be used in the treatment of diseases such as acute pericarditis or other cardiac pathologies to reduce blood levels of C-reactive protein (exaggerated by the disease); in similar circumstances, the concomitant use of folic acid and aspirin cancels or reverses the effect of the drug.
  • An intravenous loading dose of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, followed by oral intake of the same cocktail of substances, administered daily after a coronary stent operation (a small tube inserted into an artery to prevent blockage) could increase the risk of restenosis (reformation of the atheromatous plaque which occurs in the first months following artery dilation surgery). To minimize the risk of restenosis in these patients, it is necessary to avoid the administration of this vitamin combination.
  • It appears that prophylactic and long-term supplementation of folic acid and iron may somehow increase the risk of death in patients living in areas at high risk of malaria. Let us briefly remind you that folic acid can be used in the treatment of malaria anemia together with iron because the synergistic action of the two substances seems to significantly improve the anemic situation compared to monotherapy with iron alone. However, it seems that long-term administration of the drugs for prophylactic purposes is not recommended due to the increased risk of death.
  • Folic acid can reduce blood glucose levels: for this reason, diabetic patients taking specific drugs to control blood sugar must pay particular attention when taking folic acid to avoid unpleasant side effects.
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